My child went missing for a few minutes when we were at a busy public arena. Has your child ever been missing for a few minutes? Have you ever lost sight of your child when you are out in public? It happens to the best of parents. It happens, and it is one of the scariest moments ever to experience as a parent.
The Story of our missing child
It happened to us a couple of years ago. Our five year old son went missing for a few minutes. We were at a hockey tournament in Detroit. We had three children at the time, our youngest was 5 years old. We were leaving the arena, kids and hockey bag in tow.
The children were just ahead of me and I held the door open for them and a few others as the crowd exited the arena. Once it was my turn to go through the exit, I stopped on the other side and gathered the kids. There was a crowd of people and I knew my husband was coming behind me with the keys to the van.
That is when I noticed that Nathan was missing.
“Where is your brother?” I asked in a slightly raised voice of panic. “I dunno”, his brother and sister replied. “He was just here.” My stomach jumped into my throat like the feeling you get when you are released from the top of the hill on a roller coaster ride. I instantly felt nauseous and my mind raced as fast as my pulse with thoughts of kidnapping, danger, and the thought of never seeing my child again.
Feelings of panic, guilt, worry, and anger all surfaced at once making it impossible to focus.
By this time my husband had caught up and I told him Nathan wasn’t with us. Our friends from our hockey family had overheard, seen the worry in our faces and began to search around.
We called his name, we checked at our van, we went back into the arena, we asked if people had seen him, we searched the washrooms, and at the food booth and tried to think like a five-year old boy. Where would he go? In a moment of clarity I was certain I saw him go out of the arena ahead of me so I deduced that he had to be outside. I gave up searching inside the arena and went back outside.
I was trying to keep it together but the thoughts of a stranger just grabbing him from the crowd kept flooding my thoughts.
We actually had a conversation with our children before we left our small Canadian town. We told them Detroit was a big city, and we must always stick together. I insisted that they must have me in their sights at all times, and not get too far away from me or their father. We all discussed the safety rules for being out in public. They promised. They promised, I thought.
I went outside determined to find him. He has to be here somewhere. I am not calling the police yet, I am going to find him.
I tried to remember what he was wearing that day, in case I needed to give a description. I called his name a little louder, with even more of a panic-stricken voice.
At this point, other parents in the crowd started to realize I was looking for my son. It felt like eternity, but in reality it had only been about three minutes since we first realized he was missing.
Someone in the crowd of parents said there was a boy standing over by a van. I ran through the parking lot and there he was! I grabbed him and hugged him while asking, “What are you doing? We have been looking for you!”
He answered with a puzzled look on his face, “I am waiting for you. At the van.” Oh, bless him. He was standing at the door to a red van the exact same as ours, except it wasn’t our van. “I was so worried! I didn’t know where you were!” I told him with tears in my eyes.
“Well, I knew where you were” he replied with confidence. “I could see you the whole time! Just like you said.”
The happy ending
As it turns out, he was standing at the van he thought was ours, waiting for us to come over. He had his eyes on us the whole time. He could see his siblings standing there, and he could see me go in and out of the arena, but he was just far enough away not to hear me calling. At least he stayed in one spot, I thought. And he kept us in his sights as he promised.
I am grateful that we had a happy ending to the most terrifying three minutes of my life. It can happen so fast. Just like that, you turn around and your child is not there. It could easily happen to any parent.
Have you ever experienced the trauma of a missing child?